When Can a Federal Employee Be Put on Light Duty?

Traumatic injuries need time to heal.
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Another day of daytime television and you're ready to tear your hair out. You've watched every movie you own -- and some that you rented -- but you're still stuck on the couch or in bed because you got injured at work. Any kind of injury is tough, but work-related ones are real bummers. They take time to heal. You're grateful for the workers' comp benefits you have under the Federal Employees Compensation Act, but you may be asking yourself if you can be put on light duty. Yes you can, but under certain conditions.

Division of Federal Employee Compensation

    The federal workers' comp plan and the Division of Federal Employee Compensation only applies to federal employees as state and private employees fall under state-managed plan. DFEC promises to manage your compensation claim timely -- within limits. It manages claims through 12 district offices or its national Washington, D.C. headquarters depending on the geographic region and agency for which you work. Within 45 days of a traumatic on-the-job injury, you should have a decision in your case, unless it's complex. For simple occupational illnesses or injuries, decisions occur within 90 days of receipt of your claim, but most of these cases can take up to six months. For the more complex cases, it could take up to 10 months for a decision on your workers' comp claim.


    When your doctor's report or medical evidence supports your claim of injury, the district office through which you submit your claim pays your lost wages within 14 days of your injury on an accepted claim. The office that you work for submits the claim on your behalf to the district office. Other benefits include payment of medical treatment within 28 days of the medical provider submitting the invoice to the district office. If the bill is not paid, an Explanation of Benefits letter goes back to the medical provider that submitted the bill, in which case your medical insurance should take over.

Returning to Work

    The government has a program to help federal employees return to work. Jobs are protected for up to a year from the date of the injury; the division indicates it will do everything possible to help employees return to their jobs in that period – and even beyond. Injured workers who cannot return to work receive the services of a registered nurse case manager who assists the employee in returning to work through ensuring and overseeing proper medical care. The registered nurse can refer you to specialists or doctors for secondary opinions, or assist in getting you rehabilitation, if needed when you are unable to return to your previous job.

Modified or Light Duty

    When your doctor releases you to work – you can go back to work. In the event he releases you to work with physical restrictions, and the agency you work for can provide modified or light duty work within those restrictions, you can return to work. If you refuse to return to work under modified or light duty restrictions, you could lose your benefits and be subject to overpayments – which you must repay. Light duty allows you to work, but doesn't force you to lift or move heavy objects if that's what your medical or physical restrictions indicate.

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